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16 Reasons to Choose a Career in Nursing

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated February 22, 2024
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    You can expect job stability and a variety of options when you become a nurse. Here are 16 reasons to choose nursing as a career.
    Credit: PeopleImages / Getty Images

    Do you have a passion for caring for people and want to see them get better? Consider a career in nursing.

    Registered nurses (RNs) are in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects RN jobs to grow faster than average between 2022-2032. New RN roles will open as an estimated third of nurses over 55 retire, according to the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

    Nursing offers many entry-level nursing options, specialties, working environments and pathways for advancement. Learn 16 reasons why choosing a nursing career might be right for you.

    1 | Nurses Make a Real Difference

    Nurses do much more than perform medical tasks. As a nurse, you can make a real difference in someone’s life. You can offer hope to people, sometimes during the worst time of their life. Nurses often counsel patients and families after a devastating diagnosis, celebrate good news, and become trusted confidantes.

    Nurses can also improve their communities through volunteering. In a 2017 survey, 74% of nurses pointed to non-work related activities when asked what they had done to improve their community’s health. Activities included health fairs, health-related volunteering, raising or donating money, and traveling for volunteer work.

    “Oftentimes, people are alone in the hospital, and while they (of course) need medical care, they also sometimes just need a friend and to know that someone cares. As a nursing student, this is something you can do even on your first day.”

    — Sarah Brooks, ABSN student

    2 | Nursing Degree Programs Exist Everywhere

    The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) ranks health professions second for the number of associate and bachelor’s graduates. Most large cities have many colleges and universities that offer an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

    3 | Nurses Can Pursue Their Education Online

    You can get your nursing degree through an accredited online nursing program anywhere in the U.S. Since nursing is a hands-on profession, you will be required to take classes online and complete in-person nursing clinicals in a healthcare setting.

    It’s important to ensure any nursing program you attend is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This is necessary to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and master NCLEX-style test questions to get your license.

    4 | Many Nursing Students Find Financial Aid Opportunities

    Student debt can be overwhelming. Even with payback programs, it can take up to a decade to pay off school loans. Fortunately, nursing students have many ways to pay for nursing school.

    Some options to reduce total debt include nursing scholarships and grants from various organizations. Financial aid is available for students seeking an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and even DNP degree. Many hospitals also offer tuition reimbursement programs for staff looking to go back to school to get their ADN or BSN.

    Financing your nursing school education doesn’t have to leave you with a lot of debt.

    5 | Nurses Can Enter the Workforce Relatively Quickly

    Several nursing degrees allow you to enter the workforce quickly. You can earn an ADN, pass the NCLEX-RN, and get your nursing license in as little as two years. Then, if you return to school to complete your bachelor’s degree, you can do it while earning a stable income.

    Associate degrees in nursing are one of the highest paying associate degrees. According to Payscale data from October 2023, graduates of an ADN program make $76,000 per year, which is $23,740 more than graduates of other associate degree programs.

    Earning your BSN degree opens more opportunities for career advancement and a higher average annual salary of $92,000, according to Payscale.

    6 | Nurses Have a High Level of Job Satisfaction

    The 2019 American Mobile Nurses (AMN) Healthcare survey found that 81% of nurses were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their career choice.

    When asked if they would encourage others to become a nurse, 70% said “yes.” The survey also found that supporting professional development was tied to job satisfaction.

    When employers supported nursing professional development, 52% were extremely satisfied with their jobs. When employers did not support professional development, only 7% were extremely satisfied.

    In 2023, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reported that 100,000 nurses left nursing during the pandemic because of increased workloads and rising levels of workplace violence, burnout, and nurse bullying.

    About 800,000 expressed intent to leave by 2027. Yet, with all the challenges nurses face, nursing schools are still turning away tens of thousands of qualified applicants every year since 2019 because they do not have the nursing faculty to educate aspiring nurses.

    Nursing schools nationwide need more nursing faculty. Yet, schools in midwestern states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas, have about a 7% nurse faculty vacancy rate compared to about 10% vacancy rate in Southern and Western states, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

    “When I speak with people and tell them my job, almost always the response is, ‘Once when I was sick, I had the best nurse take care of me, and I’ll always remember them helping me.’ It is a wonderful feeling to know we have helped.”

    — Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    7 | Nurses Get to Do Exciting Work

    Each day with patients can be different. Whether in a clinic, office, a hospital, or an organization, nursing is not dull. In the McKinsey Frontline Workforce Survey from November 2021 by AMN Healthcare, data showed that 32% of nurses had plans to leave their current positions. Only 29% of these nurses planned to stay in a direct patient care role.

    The rest of the nurses had plans to move into a non-beside role, further their education, or leave the workforce to focus on their family or other life goals. Nurses who planned to leave direct patient care wanted work-life balance, flexible work hours, safe working environments, better compensation, and more manageable workloads.

    “Nursing is incredibly versatile, and there are many ways to learn new skills and apply the ones you already have. It is one of the most exciting and unique things about nursing; you can be a chameleon and constantly change.”

    — Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    8 | Nursing Is a Respected Field

    In 1999, Gallup started a decades-long survey to determine the most ethical and honest profession. In January 2023, Americans ranked nurses in the number one position for an impressive 23 years. The only year nurses were not in the top spot was following September 11, 2001, when firefighters earned the highest score.

    In addition to ranking first, nurses earned the highest score to date in 2020 for honesty and ethics. In 2020, the ranking was four percentage points higher than the last recorded high in 2019.

    9 | Nurses Can Choose Their Specialty

    Nurses are vital to delivering healthcare in many different settings. You can choose from over 100 nursing specialties, so you’ll likely never be bored.

    You can focus on a specific population, such as gerontological nursing, or go into a more specialized field, such as a flight nurse or transplant nurse. You can also pursue roles that do not directly work with patients, such as health policy careers.

    Nurses can easily move from one specialty to another. For example, after practicing as a dialysis nurse, you may wish to become a traveling nurse. If you are an experienced specialty nurse, you may be able to pick your assignments.

    If you want to become a labor and delivery nurse, you may need some hands-on experience and continuing education for nurses before finding a new position.

    10 | Nurses Work in a Stable Industry

    By 2030, the entire baby boomer generation will have reached age 65. Up to 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 60% have at least two. According to the BLS, nurses are in demand to care for a growing population of people with chronic diseases.

    The BLS projects that job growth for nurses at all levels is expected to grow faster than average because of this demand. The projected job growth includes 118,600 nurse practitioner (NP) jobs and 177,400 RN jobs.

    11 | Nurses Receive Excellent Benefits

    Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices may offer excellent benefits to attract and keep qualified professionals. For example, a nurse’s median annual salary of $81,220 is well above $46,310, which is the average annual salary of all occupations.

    Travel nurses usually receive added benefits for filling an in-demand position on short notice and for the inconvenience of living and working in another city. They usually receive hazard pay or critical staffing pay in addition to the higher average hourly wage that travel nurses earn compared to staff nurses. These can include benefits to cover travel expenses and a stipend for housing, meals, and other bills.

    Benefits for nurses include:

    • Paid sick time
    • Paid vacation and holidays
    • Paid family leave
    • Bonuses for working extra shifts or when understaffed
    • Health and life insurance
    • Tuition reimbursement
    • Retirement benefits
    • Wellness programs
    • Childcare
    • Subsidized travel
    • Student loan repayment
    • Shift differentials where nurses earn more for working holiday, weekend, or night shifts

    12 | Nurses Develop Transferable Career Skills

    Nursing offers the opportunity to adapt your professional life to fit your lifestyle. For example, you can find work in a variety of geographical locations and work environments. You may choose to work full or part-time and day or night-shift. You can also work shifts as short as four hours or as long as 12 and make more money in shift differentials.

    In your first year of nursing school, you’ll develop and hone nursing skills like critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills. You will develop the ability to remain calm and focused in an emergency.

    These skills can help you transition from clinical nursing to other non-bedside options, including nursing administration, nonprofit management in nursing, public health nursing, correctional facilities, or being a missionary nurse in clinics across the world.

    “Nursing is also a flexible career with so many options. If you don’t like a certain floor or hospital, you can try another one. If you don’t like your current schedule, you can switch it. If you want to further your education and advance your career, there are many ways to do so.”

    — Sarah Brooks, ABSN student

    13 | Nursing Grads Have Smoother New Hire Transitions

    All nurses experience orientation or onboarding as they move from an academic to a clinical setting after they graduate as a nurse. For many nurses working in large teaching hospitals, this transition may be eased by the hospital’s one-year nurse residency programs designed to help new nurses successfully transition from school to various work settings for nurses.

    Although there is a nursing shortage across the U.S., it is still challenging to get a premium job. You can improve your success by working while you’re in school to gain nursing experience and complete internships. Nursing students who gain volunteer experience and network while in nursing school also have an advantage when it’s time to apply for their first nursing job.

    14 | Nurses Collaborate With Different Healthcare Professionals

    Nurses play a unique role in healthcare. They spend a lot of time with patients at the bedside, so they must collaborate with healthcare teams to coordinate patient care and improve outcomes.

    The bedside nurse is the hub of patient activity. They know the recommendations of each healthcare professional attending to the patient. Nurses need strong organizational and critical thinking skills to understand how each recommendation affects the overall care plan.

    They must also explain the care plan and instructions to patients and their families in an understandable way.

    “Nurses are often the first person to assess and examine a patient and to come up with differential diagnoses or an assessment of what the problem may be. From there, the nurse lets the attending physician or provider know the outcomes of the assessment.”

    — Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    15 | Nurses Have Many Leadership Opportunities

    The skills you learn caring for patients can help as you apply to a charge nurse role on the unit. Charge nurses must assign patient care and monitor the staff, making adjustments as needed during the shift.

    Nurses with strong nursing leadership skills may go on to positions in administration, such as unit managers, clinical nurse leaders, patient care directors, or chief nursing officers.

    You can also take advantage of leadership roles in clinical practice, including advanced practice nurses, clinical nurse specialists, and case managers. Nursing offers several avenues to take additional responsibility and progress up the career ladder.

    16 | Nurses Are at the Forefront of the Telemedicine Movement

    Telehealth nursing increased significantly during 2020 when healthcare providers began treating patients at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

    The need for remote telemonitoring for patients in the intensive care unit or at home continues to grow. Remote monitoring can reduce costs for a hospital or physician’s office without sacrificing patient care.

    Nurses are integral to patient consultations, taking patient histories and coordinating care at home. They are often the primary source of health education and monitoring. Incorporating telehealth services has given nurses a new tool to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

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    A Nurse and a Nursing Student Share Why They Choose a Nursing Career

    Portrait of Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    Elizabeth Clarke is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. Her experience spans emergency departments, cardiac units, pediatric urgent care, and occupational health settings. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing and master’s in nursing from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

    Clarke is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

    Portrait of Sarah Brooks

    Sarah Brooks

    I’m a mom to three daughters, currently enrolled in an accelerated nursing program. Prior to nursing school, I spent over a decade as a writer and editor in the personal finance niche. While I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve always felt a desire to go back to school to become a nurse. With my youngest starting kindergarten last August, I figured there was no better time for me to take the leap and return to school. My career goals include both working as a nurse and continuing to write and edit in the finance and healthcare spaces.

    Sarah is a paid member of the Red Ventures freelance Education Student Network.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Careers

    What are the reasons for choosing nursing as a career?

    Most nurses choose to work in the profession to help others live better lives. Whether you work in a hospital, clinic, missionary clinic overseas, administration, or correctional facility, the underlying reason most nurses choose the profession is to help those in need. Another reason is that nursing is a high-paying career with advancement opportunities and flexibility.

    How hard is it to become a nurse?

    You can become a nurse in as little as two years by completing an ADN. You can further advance your career options and salary by earning a BSN degree. You can do this in two years if you already have an RN license, online or in the classroom and while you continue to work. You can also earn an accelerated BSN degree if you hold a bachelor’s in another field.

    What qualities do you need to be a nurse?

    Nurses are compassionate, patient, and understanding. They have strong critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills. You may not have these skills at the start of your nursing education but will develop them in your nursing program and hone them in your practice.

    How do I know if nursing is right for me?

    If you are curious to learn more about health and wellness and have a desire to help others, consider speaking with an admission counselor at your local college or university. You may also want to consider volunteering in a hospital or shadowing a nurse for a shift.

    Page last reviewed on November 2, 2023